Over the years I have collected a lot of stuff: clothes, books, albums, decoration stuff, key chains, cosmetics, … – many of the things I’m not using! I’ve been hoping to somehow use them sometimes, but that didn’t happen. So I’m just sitting here in my pile of potential. Because the stuff has potential! Just not here with me.
Many of us know this situation and want to do better. The first thing in mind is to bring everything you’re not using to a second-hand store, so others can find it and use it again! However, there are reasons why we haven’t done this yet. Luckily, there are some approaches or platforms that may work better for certain stuffs! I’d like to show you some you may not know.
Clothes are tricky. We wear clothes every day, so it’s easy to think that you may want to use it later. Also, there are already so many second-hand clothes, so will my nice ones find another wearer? Will she love it as much as I do? All though I don’t wear ’em, I do love ’em! I would, if there was a right opportunity…
What I found to work well is clothing swaps! It works like this: before the clothing swap event you bring in any number of clothing items, for which you receive vouchers. These vouchers can be used on the actual event, on which all collected items are displayed, as ‘payment’ for other items you like! Bring in 6 items? Take away 6! If you want more, you may have to make a donation for the organisation or a good cause.
I feel as if this approach works, because when advertised well, many people bring and take clothes for and from the same event, meaning that there will be a great re-distribution. I have co-organised two clothing swaps, and it really seems like people are more willing to bring clothes this way than to bring them to a second-hand store. People, mostly students in our case, trust others to bring nice items as well, which they themselves can choose from on the event. This can make it easier to let go of your ‘surplus’ clothes, which in the end may be better for everyone.
Selling service with ownership
Something I’ve seen a lot in Finland and which seems to be upcoming in the Netherlands are shops where you can rent a shelve on which to display your goods. If someone wants your thing, he or she pays at the counter in the shop. After the rent period you come to collect your remaining items and the money the shop made selling the others. Simple as that! You bring your stuff, it remains yours, they may sell if for you, you get the money. You’d only have to pay a little extra for the service!
Last year I was in the board of a student organisation, Wageningen Environmental Platform (WEP), through which we also organised the clothing swaps. WEP manages a second-hand bookshop for study books for university courses! This is awesome, because it can save huge amounts of trees and other environmental damage.
The bookshop system is the same as described above. Sellers bring their books and set prices. The books remain in their ownership while on the shelves in the shop. Buyers pay the price set by the seller, plus a small fee for using the service. The seller then gets the money transferred to their bank account. If the book is not sold, the seller can decide to take the book back and try selling it elsewhere, or lower the price, give it away for free, etc.
This way you know whether or not your stuff gets a new place, and you can even make a little money out of it. If the stuff doesn’t find an owner, then you can decide yourself what to do. I think many people are afraid their stuff ends up still not being used or even being destroyed, while you could have used it at a certain moment in time if it was still yours… This approach helps with that.
Give-away via internet
Some stuff you cannot really sell or bring to second-hand stores, because it has some issues, or only certain people would like it and wouldn’t find it that way. In my case: I have nail polish I’m not using and I’ve been thinking for years about giving it away, but I didn’t know how because of its condition. It’s a bit old, so it may not work as well as it used to, and some are half-empty, so it’s not suitable for bringing to a second-hand store. I don’t have many people in my surroundings to give it to either. It’s difficult!
Now, there is a Facebook group for inhabitants of my city through which people give away things they don’t need. This is awesome! So if I offer my nail polish there, I can inform the people about the ‘conditions’ and if someone is interested anyway, they can have it. That is so nice! And it actually worked: multiple people showed interest and I made them and myself happier. Win-win!
As usually, there are many ways in which to contribute to a more sustainable world, and being a more conscious consumer and user (and sharer!) is an important one. I really like how the things I described here provoke a sense of community among people and collective ownership or even non-ownership over the material stuff: you use a thing when you want or need to and if you don’t, someone else may use it. That is awesome.
Much related to that is the theme of degrowth, of which I’d like to give some more background information.
Degrowth & the sharing economy
Last week Budapest was home to a 5-day conference on the intriguing topic of degrowth. Degrowth is a movement advocating better ways of using our time, money and environment which can go hand-in-hand with increased happiness. Degrowth contrasts current economic thinking, of which the latter is based on the concept of ever economic growth, with increasing incomes and consumption thus happiness. The important thing here is that ever-increasing consumption, which goes with materialism, does not lead to happiness. Over-consumption has very many negative ‘side-effects’, both environmental and societal, which are obviously not taken into account in economic thinking.
So we should not over-consume, instead we should share. Related to degrowth is the sharing economy: an economic system based on sharing of materials and wealth, instead of being focused on consumption and individual ownership. In the sharing economy there is room for collective ownership. You can think of collectively owned tools and materials, which people can use whenever they need it. Sharing these things not only saves money (which remains to be an important drive to people), but even more importantly: it saves space and resources! And it gives more of a community feeling and social cohesion and the like, which is all really nice!
I hope you found this interesting! What do you think? Let me know in a comment!